Asian Tick Apecies Has Invaded the East Coast

The Asian long-horned tick was first identified in New Jersey last November.

The species now has been reported in the suburbs of New York City and as far west as Arkansas.James Gathany/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

For the first time in 50 years, a new tick species has arrived in the United States — one that in its Asian home range carries fearsome diseases.

The Asian long-horned tick, Haemaphysalis longicornis, is spreading rapidly along the Eastern Seaboard. It has been found in seven states and in the heavily populated suburbs of New York City.

At the moment, public health experts say they are concerned, but not alarmed.

Although domestic American ticks are a growing menace and transmit a dozen pathogens, no long-horned ticks here have yet been found with any human diseases.

In Asia, however, the species carries a virus that kills 15 percent of its victims.

For now, the new arrivals are considered a greater threat to livestock.

Known in Australia as bush ticks and in New Zealand as cattle ticks, long-horned ticks can multiply rapidly and suck so much blood from a young animal that it dies.

The ticks bloat up like fat raisins until their tiny legs are barely able to support them.

After a blood meal, females can lay hundreds of fertile eggs without mating.

“One tick can crank out females in fairly large numbers,” said Thomas Yuill, a retired pathobiologist at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, who was one of the first to raise alarms about the invaders.

The first long-horned tick was found last summer in western New Jersey.

This summer they were collected in public parks and a golf course in Bergen, Essex and Middlesex counties in New Jersey, and in wooded and grassy areas of New York’s Westchester County.

They were reported in Pennsylvania for the first time last week, and have been sighted in Arkansas, North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia.

They were found feeding on horses, dogs, deer, a calf, a sheep and an opossum. They do bite humans, but it is not clear how often.

People should use the same precautions they do against domestic ticks, experts said, such as using repellents and checking for ticks after walking through woods or tall grass.

The ear of a sheep in New Jersey covered with long-horned ticks. This infestation was the first confirmed appearance of the new tick species in the U.S.

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Dan Mullin is an active writer and editor for the Pluto Daily who covered the 2014 Ebola Outbreak. Mullin attended the Wake Forest School of Medicine before leaving to pursue his lifelong science goal of allowing humans to live forever via a computer/brain transfer.
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